Teach Your Dog a Controlled Retrieve

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Is your dog obsessed with chasing balls and toys? It’s tempting to try and wear out your dog by mindlessly throwing the ball over and over again. However, often this only increases your dog’s arousal and risk of injury. By being thoughtful and controlled about retrieve games, you will not only provide safe, physical exercise but mental exercise as well!

Using “Go Sniff” as a Reinforcer

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Does your dog spend most of your walks sniffing the ground? Well, there’s a good reason for that! Unlike humans who rely on sight for environmental cues, dogs rely on scent. Sniffing is how they learn about their environment. Sniffing also has a calming effect on dogs. For these reasons, sniffing is a primary reinforcer, or something that is inherently reinforcing. So, why not harness a dog’s need to sniff by putting it on cue?

Teaching Verbal Cue Discrimination

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As trainers, we need to be able to depend on our dogs’ ability to respond to the correct verbal cue and not to other stimuli. Verbal cue discrimination training is an important skill; it ensures that your dog responds only to the correct verbal cue and not to other words. It is particularly useful in dog sports, such as canine freestyle, where many verbal cues are given and the dog must differentiate between them.

Using Toys as Reinforcers

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Have you ever wanted to reward your dog for a job well done, but didn’t have food treats with you? Consider playing with your dog to reinforce good behavior! Using play as a reinforcer adds variety to your training routine and helps strengthen your relationship. The key is to find a toy or interactive game (tug, retrieve, chase) that your dog enjoys.

Training at a Distance

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When training at a distance, there are many different objects that can be used to help your dog to stay in place, such as a mat or raised platform. These training aids give your dog a definitive place to be. However, sometimes you may find the need to train your dog from a distance without the use of a platform or mat to anchor him. This was the case for Ken Ramirez when working with his dog Marlin on The Ranch.

Teaching Behaviors as Secondary Reinforcers

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Understanding reinforcement is the key to understanding how dogs learn. Reinforcement can be categorized as either primary or secondary. A primary reinforcer is a reinforcer that an animal needs to survive, such as food, water, or shelter. When you give your dog a treat for sitting on cue, you are using a primary reinforcer. However, when reinforced regularly, the “sit” behavior itself can become a secondary reinforcer.